Tuesday, February 16, 2021

Tonight's Movie: Fugitive in the Sky (1936)

Last weekend Nora Fiore, aka the Nitrate Diva, Tweeted that she was watching the Warner Bros. "B" movie FUGITIVE IN THE SKY (1936).

It's no secret I love WB "B" films, and when I learned it was an aviation film in which the stewardess (Jean Muir) flies the plane, I had to pull it out and watch it immediately.

Even more fun: Muir costarred in the film with Warren Hull; just a couple of weeks ago I watched them in HER HUSBAND'S SECRETARY (1937).  Watching FUGITIVE IN THE SKY this week was clearly meant to be.

FUGITIVE IN THE SKY is one of those fast-paced, energetic little films at which Warner Bros. excelled; sure, sometimes it gets silly, but it's 58 minutes of pure entertainment.

The enjoyment begins with a "Foreword" which tells the viewers the film "...is not intended to represent events which have taken place on a commercial air line.....Scheduled air transport, regulated by the Department of Commerce, is today recognized as a fast and safe form of transportation."

Once we're assured of that, we meet Rita Moore (Jean Muir), the flight attendant on an eastbound flight taking off out of Los Angeles.

Newspaperman Terry Brewer (Warren Hull), who's sweet on Rita, is at the airport when he spots the FBI's Mike Phelan (John Litel) among the passengers.  Following a hunch, Terry gets permission from his editor to hop on the flight in hopes of a story.

After a stopover in Albuquerque, the passengers sleep as the plane heads toward Wichita.  Rita discovers something shocking: One of the men (Gordon "Wild Bill" Elliott) has been stabbed to death in his sleep!  She alerts the pilots (Carlyle Moore Jr. and Gordon Oliver), who wake up the passengers.  

G-man Phelan begins to take charge of the situation when the plane is hijacked by an unexpected character...

The above is only part of the jam-packed story, which at various points includes incapacitated pilots and a stewardess flying the plane; a near crash landing; a massive dust storm; a shotgun-wielding stewardess saving the day; and a pair of criminals in disguise.  There's no dramatic depth to this movie, but tons of plot, and it's all quite entertaining.

This movie was released the same year as another film in which the stewardess flies the plane, RKO's WITHOUT ORDERS (1936), which is available on DVD from the Warner Archive Collection.  FUGITIVE IN THE SKY would make a terrific DVD release, perhaps paired with one or two other short movies, but alas, releasing obscure films on DVD no longer seems to be the WAC business model.  

FUGITIVE IN THE SKY also stars Mary Treen, Wini Shaw, Nedda Harrigan, Spencer Charters, Lillian Harmer, and Charley Foy.  (Foy's brother Bryan was one of the film's producers.)  It was directed by Nick Grinde and filmed by Ted McCord.

IMDb identifies the airport scenes as being filmed at Alhambra Airport in Alhambra, California, which ceased functioning as an airport in 1943.  The property was sold to developers in 1946.

FUGITIVE IN THE SKY is not available on DVD, but it's shown from time to time on Turner Classic Movies.


Anonymous Bert Greene said...

I like both "Fugitive in the Sky" (1936) and "Without Orders" (1936), two entertaining little b-flicks. I always assumed both had been influenced by the earlier, higher-profile "A" production "13 Hours by Air" (1936-Paramount), with Fred MacMurray and Joan Bennett. That one's also quite a bit of fun.

7:49 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

I enjoyed 13 HOURS BY AIR as well; I reviewed it over a decade ago. My review may be read here. I should revisit that one!

Those short little '30s aviation pics are fun to watch. FLIGHT FROM GLORY (1937) is another fave of the era.

Best wishes,

10:57 PM  

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